Kathryn Claire – Solo Artist Interview

Singer-songwriter Kathryn Claire released her fourth full-length, 10-track album “Bones Will Last…” that is a listening experience filled with both classical and folk influences. ETV spoke with Kathryn about the making of her half-vocal and half-instrumental album, the story behind her music video for “The Fugue,” and she offered advice for other musicians who are also interested in learning to play the violin.

Kathryn is based in Portland, Oregon, and has created a unique style of music that combines her skills as a violinist, guitarist, and singer-songwriter to deliver fresh chamber and folk experience. Growing up, Kathryn listened to a lot of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell who helped shaped her style, and she was also a big fan of classical violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg who astounded her with energy and vitality with the violin on stage.

Her new album “Bones Will Last” contains five instrumentals and five vocal tracks, providing the best of her talents for everyone to enjoy. She worked on the record for more than two years, trying to find a cohesive sound between instrumentals and lyrical songs that proved to be problematic. Ultimately, it was the violin’s strings in each song that tied everything together.

“Initially there were going to be a lot more songs and not as many instrumentals,” Kathryn said. “Over time I realized that I actually had two albums on my hands. ‘Bones Will Last’ and another more lyrical driven, electric album ‘Eastern Bound for Glory.’ It was a process to realize that I couldn’t put everything on one album. Once I realized that, I was able to listen more skillfully to myself and to what ‘Bones Will Last’ was becoming. I realized that I wanted to place the violin at the center of the album and strip away all percussion or harmony vocals or really anything that I felt detracted from the violin compositions and my voice on the album. It was such a cool process and an exercise in trusting myself as an artist and having faith in what was wanting to come out musically. Technically speaking, my favorite aspect was tracking the multiple violin parts. I love doing that and having the ability to harmonize with myself and build entire string sections. It is amazing!”

Kathryn has played violin on many albums and with many performers, and along the way she has learned how to listen. For this album, she captured what was in her head with the violin and found the melodic and lyrical lines she kept hearing. Once she came up with the compositions she wanted, she worked with Portland musicians Zak Borden (mandolin), Allen Hunter (upright bass), and Don Henson (piano) who all brought their own style to create the album she wanted to create. She has even performed and toured extensively with all three artists.

The theme of the album is about mortality, loss, love and transformation. Kathryn admits to thinking about death often, but more often to ponder rather than thinking from a place of preoccupation. The title of the album “Bones Will Last” refers to what people leave behind when they die in the literal sense, but in the figurative sense the bones represent personality and the other essential things that live on after death.

“I like the idea that at the core each of us have this essence, and as an artist, there is a core voice or aesthetic,” Kathryn said. “I sought the “bones” of my creative being through the creation of this album. I wondered how I would feel if this was my last album, if this was the last musical thing I left behind. I needed to make sure that I said and expressed everything I wanted.”

Kathryn is not sure if her future albums will also be a split between instrumental and vocal tracks. “Bones Will Last” was an experiment and she believes it worked out for the best on this album. Kathryn is already at work on her follow-up titled “Eastern Bound for Glory,” which is a collection of songs she wrote on electric guitar with her current band that features drums, bass, and strings.

“‘Bones Will Last’ is a very special album to me and I feel it stands on its own in my musical catalogue,” Kathryn said. “I could see myself doing more instrumental composition for sure. I loved creating the instrumentals. It really opened a part of me that I would like to explore more. So, the violin and strings will always be a part of my musical voice, I think.”

Several of the tracks on the album received the music video treatment. “The Forest Flower Will Set” is a traditional song that features Kathryn walking into a barbershop and was shot in Tournai, Belgium, by T. Raznor at Christiane’s salon. The spontaneity captured on film is in tune with the liveliness of the song and it’s a nice representation of ok Kathryn’s spirit. Another song on the album with a video was “The Fugue,” a very whimsical-driven song with visuals to match. It was the first official music video for Kathryn and was directed by Martin Vavra of Galaxy Sailor Productions shot in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

“Because ‘The Fugue’ is an instrumental composition, we didn’t have to contend with lyrics that we were trying to somehow represent in the video,” Kathryn said. “That was so liberating. I worked with film-maker, Martin Vavra on the project and he contributed a lot to the vision of the video. The initial idea came from an image I had carried in my head for a number of years. It was a woman on the beach with her hair tied up in drift wood and staked in the sand with shells and feathers all around. A couple friends helped me to make that image a reality and we took a bunch of pictures and documented the process. It was beautiful. When Martin saw that image, he said, ‘That should be a video’ and we took it from there. For me personally, I feel the elements of death, rebirth, transformation, the passing of time, and longing are all elements of the video. The thing I love the most is that everyone has their own interpretation of the images and the video. I love that it is open for people to respond to in their own way.”

Most recently, the title track of “Bones Will Last” received a video of its own that was shot in Director Park in downtown Portland, Oregon on March 8. It was also directed by Vavra and filmed by Phil Anderson and captures the heart of this song and album with a public performance piece.

Overall, for anyone looking to listen to a singer-songwriter with an emphasis in violin playing, look no further than Kathryn Claire. She is clearly one with the violin, and she hopes others will pick up on the instrument. She offered advice for those up and coming musicians who want to take up the violin for themselves.

“I would say, ‘Don’t give up!’” Kathryn said. “The violin is such a beautiful instrument and truly a joy to play. But it takes a lot of practice and perseverance, especially right at the beginning. It is difficult to get a rich tone in the beginning, so the sound can be a bit challenging right at first. Like anything else you might be starting for the first time, I would say, start slow, practice frequently but for short amounts of time, and really fall in love with long notes and playing the open strings. I think making a beautiful sound and loving the voice of the violin is essential before you begin to be able to play anything complex or flashy.”

To stay up to date with Kathryn Claire, be sure to check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and her official site.

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Gayle Skidmore – Solo Artist Interview

Folk and indie singer-songwriter Gayle Skidmore recently released her 20th independent release, which also happens to be her first full length vinyl album. She described the album as “whimsical, melancholic music for the romantic intellectual.” After following trends and chasing after deals to be successful through the industry channels, she has moved on to find something that works out for her, and “The Golden West” is about finding her own voice and creating music straight from her soul. ETV spoke with Gayle about the making of her album, creating adult coloring books, and her plans for touring this year.

Classically trained on the piano from the age of 4, and having written more than 2,000 songs since age 8, Gayle was destined to achieve a prestigious musical career no matter how she went about it. Her toolset includes a majestic voice that is delicate enough to accurately portray her penned musings and strong enough to portray the feeling behind those words. She also plays a number of varying instruments, ranging from electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, flute, marimba, organ, mandolin, ocarina, accordion, trumpet, percussion, and many more you’ve probably never heard of. Gayle believes anyone can learn any instrument if they dedicate the time it takes to learning music theory, confirming that even with her exceptional musical ability, it takes time to be great in your craft.

Gayle writes original material about the highs and lows in life with musical inspirations coming from Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice, and other artists who are are bold in their songwriting or elaborate on-stage antics. This has clearly left an impression on her and has opened the door for self-expression to the fullest. Gayle’s talents have attracted other top-tier musicians who enjoy touring or recording with her, as she has opened for the likes of Jason Mraz, Lisa Loeb, Steve Martin, Sean and Sara Watkins, Sam Phillips, Coeur d’Pirate, and many others and has recorded with such artists as The Softlightes, Bushwalla, Jason Mraz and Tyrone Wells.

Her impressive music career is an outlet to express the different stories that come from a tumultuous life, an experience that she finds personally fulfilling. It has led her to winning multiple awards, from Best Pop in the 2015 San Diego Music Awards, Best Pop Album for “Sleeping Bear” in 2014, and Best Singer-Songwriter in 2013. However, despite her successes, her new album was written as the roadmap of moving on from heartache and loss. Gayle’s first full length vinyl album “The Golden West” (her 20th independent release) was originally planned to be an E.P. but quickly turned into a full-length in 2015 following her extensive touring across the U.S. The personal journey that Gayle went through is beautify captured in the 10-track indie pop album that was recorded in legendary studio Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, Singing Serpent in San Diego, and at Ninkasi Studios—a recording studio built right inside a Eugene, Oregon brewery.

“Eugene has felt like a second, though much weirder, home for the past few years since I have been collaborating with Ninkasi Brewing, so recording at Ninkasi Studios felt super comfortable right from the start,” Gayle said. “It doesn’t get much better than having Ninkasi on tap right outside the studio door, as well as nitro Stumptown coffee for a nice pick-me-up during late night sessions. They have a killer setup there and it was so much fun to work with James Book on the album.”

All the songs on the album make up the story of how she overcame loss, from the opening track’s “Pale Ghosts” that deals with the struggle of letting go of people we’ve lost and feeling afraid to move on to “Beautiful Soul,” a song about falling in love and working up the courage to confess your feelings. As the album flows on, lyrical themes cover topics about leaving the past behind, feeling nostalgic of what was left behind, and the fear of moving forward but having the commitment to journey with a trusted companion.

“I penned the chorus to a song I’d been working on while the sun set on the old mining town of Sonora, California,” Gayle said. “I knew immediately that this would be my single and title track for my upcoming album. The chorus’ lyrics, ‘Let’s bury all we put to rest in the golden west,’ captured the spirit of the record. Since I was contemplating a move to Amsterdam at the time, it seemed only fitting that this album about letting go would be titled after the song that talked directly about leaving California.”

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Photo via Gayle Skidmore / In Music We Trust PR

The first song on side B is considered a turning point in the ongoing narrative with the track “How to Let You Go,” which is about getting rid of nostalgic memorabilia that hinder us from taking hold of our future. Following that is “Honey Bee,” a pop song about the first pure happy day after long years of pain with “Moving On” serving as a celebration to completely let go of painful parts of the past. The final two songs, “The Hallows” and “Only Ever You” deal with making peace with the ghosts of the past and finding a different way to look at the painful years in the rear view mirror. Overall, the record was a dissection of a troubling time and the recording of it took its toll on her, though it eventually became a very cathartic experience that saved her perseverance.

“The week before my wedding I was still finishing vocals for the album, which was pretty insane,” Gayle said. “One year, four cities, and four producers later, we finally had an album. Finishing it has been one of the most challenging things I’ve done.”

The album was also released as a full-length vinyl, making the listening of the journey an intimate one.

“It’s been a dream come true for me to release a full-length vinyl album—especially one that comes in all different colours,” Gayle said. “I have always preferred listening to vinyl albums. I know that there is still a lot of debate about the quality of sound on an LP versus a CD and that it’s very subjective. For me, it’s the comfort that comes with the experience, the magic of nostalgia and the familiarity of the crackle that make it extra special. When I was little and dreaming of being a musician, I never imagined that I’d actually get to hear my own album on vinyl.”

Gayle was proud of everyone who worked on the project because she said they brought their best effort and caught the vision of what the final product could be. During the recording process, the sound of the album had changed from its original intention but at the same time, that was exactly what she was hoping for.

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In addition to music, an important part of the Gayle listening experience is the appreciation of the artwork featured on all her albums that she does all herself, even going so far as releasing coloring books to go along with her music. “The Golden West” is her third album to feature an adult coloring book with each picture depicting a different song.

“My artwork has become increasingly important over the years and I’ve begun to focus on it a lot more, especially with The Golden West colouring book,” Gayle said. “I began creating adult colouring books with my albums in 2010 with my first full-length, ‘Make Believe,’ and at the time it was more about having something interactive than really making an artistic statement. Since then I have invested a lot more time in my artwork as I did more and more research about the benefits of colouring. For this last colouring book, my third, I actually won an artist grant, which felt like a huge affirmation for me. I have worked hard to create my own special aesthetic to complement my music, and I feel inspired to pursue that more and more.”

With the album complete, she sets out to go on tour and share to the world the songs she has finished. Gayle recently moved to Amsterdam from San Diego and is still building a steady lineup in her new homeland. She has been on tour with her San Diego band and still performs with them when she is in the States.

“Blalock and Erdis Maxhelaku, who’ve played on several albums and countless shows, are my cellist and violinist in the states, and I’ve got Daniel Crawford on lead guitar, Dave Carano on bass and Danny Campbell on drums,” Gayle said. “All of them have been with me for several years and I’ll be performing with them again in the fall when I tour the States again. I’m hoping to bring them to Amsterdam soon!”

Gayle is planning to tour in both the United States and Europe, making it quite the finale to a busy 2017.

“I am planning another tour in the States this fall, but before then I’ve got a bunch of European dates on the books!” Gayle said. “I’m pairing up with my pal Arlan Feiles, who’s heading to Europe from L.A. for a few shows, and then heading home to head up the west coast. I’m also releasing a new music video for ‘Pale Ghosts’ very soon.”

Gayle has moved on from an aching past that was tough to endure and we appreciate her making an album about her experiences and taking us along with her. Only time will tell what venture lies ahead for Gayle but one thing’s for certain: we want to take every step along with her no matter where she goes.

To stay up to date with Gayle Skidmore, check out her Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bandcamp, and her official site.

Midnight Snack – Band Interview

The Asheville-based indie band Midnight Snack has released its third full-length album “Child’s Eyes” in April this year. Lead vocalist and drummer Jack Victor spoke with ETV today about the making of the album, the challenges they faced, and plans for the rest of 2017. Check out the song “Shadow Chaser” from the new album here:

The band was started by brothers Jack Victor (vocals, drums) and Mike Henry Johnson (guitar, synth) before their enrollment in college. They added classmates Peter Brownlee (bass) and Zack Kardon (guitar) and old friend, Katie Richter (vocals, trumpet) to complete the five-piece and have quickly been making a name for themselves. Jack said he started writing the songs for “Child’s Eyes” when the band was on tour in 2014, a tour that lasted several months, allowing for him to come up with enough ideas that he would try out whenever he could get to a piano.

“The first two songs were ‘Luna’ and ‘Back to The Source’ and each of those kind of set the tone for the rest of the album,” Jack said. “From that point on I tried to focus on writing songs that were deeply personal and also songs that either illustrate time passing or looking back.”

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Photo via Midnight Snack

The album took two years to write, arrange and record. The sound transformed as time went on, specifically due to this being the first record they made in their own studio and having to deal with the technical limitations that endeavor entails. Another first for this album was the writing process, where several arrangements were recorded in the studio before playing them as a group. As for the meaning of the song’s lyrics, Jack said he likes to let the audience decide.

“I’ve always felt that whoever is listening to the music is the authority on what a song means, because it is a subjective experience,” Jack said. “That said, the themes I was writing within were longing for a loved one and reflecting on growing up.  We had just moved to Asheville, North Carolina around the time we were working on ‘Child’s Eyes’ and I think the set change helped to inspire some of these thoughts.”

Despite the experience of dealing with the technical limitations of their own studio, including microphones, sound isolation and glitchy software, it also allowed the band new freedoms. They could take as long as they wanted to record without having to worry about meeting deadlines.

“We had as much time as we needed to finish the record, so we took our time,” Jack said. “The hardest aspect was deciding when to be done. I think we could have just continued polishing it forever.”

The band is currently on tour concluding at the Asheville Barnaroo 2017 on Sept. 30. They are also working on another track. Beyond that, Midnight Snack is leaving their options open for what’s to come.

“It’s tough for us to look too far down the line,” Jack said. “Hopefully many more shows and records!”

To stay up to date with Midnight Snack, be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube, Bandcamp, and its official site.

The Slants – News Story

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RULES UNANIMOUSLY IN FAVOR OF THE SLANTS

On, June 19, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously (8-0) upheld the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s ruling that the all-Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to register their trademark, ending an eight-year battle in their pursuit to trademark their name.

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Photo via The Slants

“After an excruciating legal battle that has spanned nearly eight years, we’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court,” the band said in an official statement. “This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it’s been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what’s best for ourselves.”

The Portland, Oregon band, consisting of vocalist Ken Shima, guitarist Joe X. Jiang, and founder/bassist Simon Tam (whose stage name is Simon Young), formally applied for a trademark in 2010. However, a trademark examiner rejected the application, stating that “The Slants” was a disparaging term, using sources like UrbanDictionary.com as evidence.

“During the fight, we found the Trademark Office justifying the denial of rights to peope based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, and political views, simply because they disagreed with the message of these groups,” the band said. “To that end, they knowingly used false and misleading information, supported by questionable sources such as UrbanDictionary.com, while placing undue burdens on vulnerable communities and small business owners by forcing them into a lengthy, expensive, and biased appeals process.”

Then in 2011, Tam filed a second application, but was rejected again under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act.  After numerous appeals and arguments in court, the band finally prevailed on December 22, 2015, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruling that The Slants have the right to register their trademark. The Slants stated that people of color and the LGBTQ community have been prime targets under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act for too long, and their legal battle with the Trademark Office has made it clear that the office needed to open its eyes one day to the modern world and its evolving identity politics, shifting language, and understanding of culture competency.

The day finally came when the appeals court ruled that the U.S Patent and Trademark Office and Department of Justice violated the band’s First Amendment rights. In a 9-3 vote, the appeals court struck down the “disparagement” portion of the Lanham Act, a 1946 law that allowed the Trademark Office to deny marks that could be considered “scandalous, immoral, or disparaging.”

Writing for the opinion, Judge Kimberly Moore stated, “Courts have been slow to appreciate the expressive power of trademarks… Words – even a single word – can be powerful.  Mr. Simon Tam named his band The Slants to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in this country.  With his band name, Mr. Tam conveys more about our society than many volumes of undisputedly protected speech.”

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Photo via The Slants

Tam said that when he started the band, it was about creating a bold portrayal of Asian American culture because the establishment of an Asian American band was a political act in of itself, even though they never considered themselves as a political group.

“However, as we continued writing music about our experiences, we realized that activism would be integrated into our art as well,” the band said. “I’m proud our band members have helped raise over $1 million for issues affecting Asian Americans, that we’ve worked with dozens of social justice organizations, and that we could humanize important issues around identity and speech in new and nuanced ways. So, we became part art and part activism.”

Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of The Slants’ pursuit to trademark their name has opened new doors that allows Americans to decide who should prevail in the marketplace of ideas, as well as having national implications on free speech. The Slants decided to dedicate their newest release, “The Band Who Must Be Named,” as an open letter to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to articulate these values.

“Music is the best way we know how to drive social change: it overcomes social barriers in a way that mob-mentality and fear-based political rhetoric never can,” the band said. “Language and culture are powerful forms of expression and we are elated to know that the Supreme Court of the United States agree. Irony, wit, satire, parody…these are essential for democracy to thrive, these are weapons that neuter malice.”

The Slants expressed their gratitude and appreciation for all the organizations and groups from all political sides that helped them along the way. The band set out to get their name but wound up accomplishing something far more important: protecting marginalized members of society and protecting the First Amendment.

“The Supreme Court has vindicated First Amendment rights not only for our The Slants, but all Americans who are fighting against paternal government policies that ultimately lead to viewpoint discrimination.”

The Slants is currently touring and promoting their latest release, “The Band Who Must Not Be Named,” which has spawned two singles “From the Heart” and “Level Up.” Here are their upcoming tour dates:

7/14/17 – Tokyo in Tulsa – Tulsa, OK

7/15/17 – Tokyo in Tulsa – Tulsa, OK

7/21/17 – Ash Street Saloon – Portland, OR

8/10/17 – Otakon Matsuri – Washington, D.C.

8/11/17 – Otakon Matsuri – Washington, D.C.

8/12/17 – Otakon Matsuri – Washington, D.C.

8/13/17 – Otakon Matsuri – Washington, D.C.

To stay up to date with all things The Slants, be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTube, and their official site.

Mario Jose – Solo Artist Interview

Mario Jose’s debut EP “Heart of Gold” is a six-song collection that showcases the rising pop singer’s best talents. ETV spoke with Mario about his musical inspirations, the Kickstarter campaign behind the making of his EP, and his plans for the future. Check out the EP here:

Mario’s journey as a singer comes at a very young age, picking up inspiration from his idols that include Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Donny Hathaway and Mariah Carey. However, his first and most important influence in shaping up who he is today was his mom.

“My mom is a singer herself, so she was my first musical inspiration,” Mario said. “If you ask my mom, she said I was singing in the womb. As long as I can remember, I was interested in singing. The first recording of me singing was at 2.5 years old into my parents Dictaphone and I haven’t shut up since.”

Mario would go on to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and was a part of the award-winning a cappella group Pitch Slapped. He moved to Los Angeles after graduating to pursue a career in music.

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Photo via MarioJoseMusic.com / KD Photo

Mario’s latest EP “Heart of Gold” EP is the result of a crowdfunding effort to help pay the costs of producing the record. Mario and his manager Ryan Aceto (AMMO Management) both knew they needed to raise money through a grassroots effort because they were completely independent without a label. They ultimately decided on the website Kickstarter, a website that helps a creator raise funds to complete whatever project they are trying to bring to reality.

“Ryan did tons of research about all of the different sites we could use and we thought Kickstarter was the right fit for us, which in the end was absolutely the case!” Mario said. “I was very surprised to see that we reached our goal nine days early. With that extra time, we could keep pushing the limits of what we could do! I was also super surprised to see friends that I haven’t seen in AGES coming through and contributing to the project.”

Mario describes the EP as primarily pop, with several genres and influences coming through in each song. He said when he was writing the EP, he wanted to collaborate with some of his favorite artists to talk about real life experiences that affect many people daily, such as unrequited love, bullying, and trying to fit in and finding your own voice. These were important topics for Mario to discuss and would help his audience relate to his music. Ultimately, when his first solo project was finally released, it was a goal Mario had been dreaming of for a very long time.

“I was so excited for this EP for many reasons, but mainly because it was my first solo project I had ever released,” Mario said. “I think my favorite part was seeing so many people come together to help me make my dream come true. I will always say ‘we’ when talking about ‘Heart of Gold’ because it was a labor of love of so many people.”

Mario’s excited about the release of his EP, but that’s only the beginning of his ongoing journey. He recently released his newest cover single of Charlie Puth’s “Attention” featuring singer-songwriter Madilyn Bailey and video editor Kurt Hugo Schneider. Check out the video here:

When it comes to touring, Mario has shared the stage and studio with music icons including Pentatonix (opening for them on tour), Prince, Justin Bieber, Meghan Trainor (New Orleans Jazz Fest 2017), John Legend (NBC’s Duets), Michael McDonald, Philip Bailey (of Earth, Wind & Fire), John Elefante (of Kansas), Jim Peterick (of Survivor), Bill Champlin (of Chicago), Paula Cole, Lalah Hathaway, Ben E. King, Post Modern Jukebox and many more.

This year, Mario performed original music on tour for the first time on the Heart Hope & Love Tour with Travis Atreo and the Filharmonic, and they will be performing at the Brick & Mortar in San Francisco on July 13. Get your tickets here! 

“We sold out the L.A. show and now I’m excited to travel to San Francisco, Chicago and tons of other cities performing songs from ‘Heart of Gold’!” Mario said. “In between tour dates, I’ll be back in the studio writing and recording for the next project! Can’t wait!”

To stay up to date with all things Mario Jose, be sure to check him out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube, iTunes and his official site.